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Three Good Reads for January 2018

Three literary works by female powerhouses


Where the Past Begins: Amy Tan 

Famed fiction writer Amy Tan never wanted to write a memoir. In fact, it was her editor, Daniel Halpern who first planted the seed and got the project off the ground. His hunch that she wouldn’t agree to write a memoir was right. Instead, he urged her to write a non-fiction book detailing her creative process-composed of their email exchanges or various essays. What developed is a non-traditional memoir of sorts, complete with longer journal entries, smaller bit size musings or as she calls them, “quirks” email exchanges between Tan and her editor, as well as more straightforward essay writing. 


Tan does quite a bit of self-reflection and digging at her own personal history, she lays it all bare for the reader when she discusses her early life with a mentally unstable mother. Other tragedies and their effects on Tan are discussed, such as the brain tumor deaths of her father and brother, less than a year apart. A hodgepodge of different topics and ideas, fans of Tan’s work will likely find chapters similar to the The Joy Luck Club and character development in the novel illuminating. Where the Past Begins by Amy Tan is available on Amazon.com for RMB96.


The Last Black Unicorn: Tiffany Haddish 

From an early age Tiffany Haddish learned to use comedy to mask personal pain and to cope with a difficult upbringing that included stints in the foster care system. Often teased and called a “dirty unicorn” because of the mole on her face, Haddish began cracking jokes in order to not get picked on by classmates or other foster kids she lived with. She was a bit of a problem child with behavioral issues, and as a teenager, she was given a way out: taking comedy classes to deal with her anger issues.


It was in classes like these as well as open mics in the comedy nightclubs of Los Angeles, that Haddish began to hone her skills and voice as a comedian. Haddish’s brand of comedy and writing style is personable and accessible no matter if she is detailing revenge on a cheating boyfriend or recalling a domestic violence dispute. Haddish is a master of telling it like it is, and finding humor in situations that would otherwise seem void of any. The Last Black Unicorn by Tiffany Haddish is available on Amazon.com for RMB85.


The Ministry of Utmost Happiness: Arundhati Roy

20 years ago Arundhati Roy entered the literary world with much fanfare. Her debut novel The God of Small Things was praised for its handling of interpersonal human issues alongside cultural and social issues pertaining to the people of India. After 20 years away from the fiction world, Roy is back with a follow-up novel that is at times whimsical and heartbreaking. This non-linear story braids together the lives of Anjum or Tilottama, two women with very different lives.


Opposite of one another in many ways, Anjum is an outsider, an intersex person born with both male and female genitalia, who lives in a graveyard and goes through much of life fielding harassment from a society that doesn’t understand them. Tilottama on the other hand is a revolutionary and former architect on the run from an army officer who is out for blood. By using the lives of these two women as vehicles, Roy includes heinous part of India’s recent history including an Islamic insurgence and a deadly train wreck to show a portrait of the underdogs and forgotten people of India. The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy is available on Amazon.com for RMB96.

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